As a recent Brazilian Jiu-jitsu exponent, I can't stop asking asking myself why I took so long to start! As Ryron Gracie says "Most people who want to do and need to jiu-jitsu aren't doing jiu-jitsu!" So if you are someone considering taking up a martial arts you might ask; "What's the difference between Brazilian jiu-jitsu and other martial arts?"
Brazilian Jiu-jitsu empowers the weak against the strong. Unlike other martial arts, it doesn't rely on strength, speed, and athleticism. So there are no physical prerequisites to starting. Brazilian Jiu-jitsu allows you to neutralize an opponent using leverage and without causing any permanent damage.
Even though Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) has a relatively short history compared to other martial arts it has experienced great success. Jiu-jitsu has fought virtually every other martial art style on the planet and defeated all of them. It is fair to say if you want to beat a jiu-jitsu practitioner you need to adopt jiu-jitsu. This is not true for other martial arts and has been proven in MMA where BJJ is so dominant. BJJ has been adopted by the US Army since the early 1990s and many law enforcement bodies are also adopting it. So what aspects of BJJ are driving this phenomenal uptake?
The Punch Power Scale
To understand why jiu-jitsu is so effective you have to understand the punch power scale. Let's say that every punch in a street fight exists on a scale from 1 to 10. This means that the power of your punches depends on the number of joints you can use for leverage. If you are on the ground and close, the scale will be 1 or 2 as you will only be using elbow and wrists joints. But if your opponent sits up you will be able to use your shoulder and hips and you will move to levels 3 and 4. If your opponent on top throws a punch they would be on level 5 of the scale as they are using gravity to increase the power of the punch.
Levels 6 to 10 are standing punches based on the skill and experience of the puncher. So a level 6 punch is thrown by an unskilled person, like a drunk guy at a bar. You would receive a level 10 punch from a trained boxer with excellent balance and technique.
The Value of Striking
Other martial arts rely on striking to achieve victory. Jiu-jitsu includes strikes but they are used as distractions or setup for takedowns. In other martial arts, striking your opponent comes with quite a significant risk factor. To deliver punches, kicks, elbows, or knees you will usually be in a position where your opponent can counter. This can result in you trading strikes with an opponent and the outcome will be determined by power, strength, or size.
In BJJ you learn how to manage distance so your opponent can’t reach you. You are moving from one safe zone to another safe zone, spending minimal time in a dangerous zone. When your opponent moves forward, you move back, maintaining a safe distance. You also learn when is the best opportunity to move in and engage and still stay relatively safe.
The prime example of this is the clinch which ensures you are so close to your opponent that you suffocate the distance of effectiveness. Your opponent can only deliver level 1 or 2 strikes as they don’t have any leverage. Once you have established a strong clinch you have many options. You can neutralize the threat and then disengage. Or you can deploy a number of standing techniques to get your opponent to the ground where you can achieve more control or submit them.
Position, Control and Submission
BJJ allows you to minimize the effectiveness of your opponent's power and leverage so their striking is greatly reduced. It also allows you to get in positions where you can control and submit your opponent in a number of ways. Your opponent will not be able to use any level 6 through 10 punches and you can deploy a very effective submission technique.
So the secret to Brazilian Jiu-jitsu is that you position yourself relative to your opponent at a distance where they cannot reach you with their dangerous strikes. The challenge with other martial arts is that strength and speed are integral prerequisites for effectiveness.
How do you expect to hit someone without getting hit? Only one way, by being faster with your delivery of strike and then moving out of the way or blocking your opponent counters. Jiu-jitsu is one of the only martial arts where strength and speed are not prerequisites for success.
BJJ vs Japanese Jiu-jitsu
Modern Jiu-jitsu origins can be traced all the way back to ancient Japan and most notably was the battlefield art of the Samurai. They used jiu-jitsu to fight when they are on foot by utilizing joint locks, strangle, strikes and throws
Japanese jiu-jitsu and Brazilian jiu-jitsu are very similar but they do have some key differences. Japanese jiu-jitsu sticks closer to the samurai principles. It has a combination of strikes, submissions, takedowns, and throws. Brazilian jiu-jitsu development has been more focused on groundwork and effective controls.
But the main thing that separates Brazilian jiu-jitsu from Japanese jiu-jitsu is the training method. From day 1 of starting Brazilian jiu-jitsu, you will experience some form of “live’ training or sparring. Japanese jiu-jitsu is practiced in a more controlled manner with little to no live sparring. The advantage of live training is that you develop street-ready self-defence techniques a lot faster.
Self-defence, Priority Number 1
The self-defence aspect has become a point of emphasis recently for many senior members of the Brazilian jiu-jitsu hierarchy. They feel that many schools have moved to teach where the focus is on the sport of BJJ. Many students are developing techniques that are effective in performing well in competitions. But many blue belts and higher have techniques that are ineffective in a street situation.
In response to this problem, Gracie University, which is one of the two biggest academies in the world, developed a program to address this issue. Gracie Combatives is a beginners program that builds a solid foundation. In it, you learn 36 of the most important techniques for street self-defence. When you feel you have mastered the techniques, you are ready to take a test where you will demonstrate all the techniques in live situations. If you successfully pass the test you will earn your Gracie Combatives Belt.
There is a clear distinction between Brazilian Jiu-jitsu and other martial arts. Instead of relying on athleticism, speed or strength, BJJ teaches you to use leverage against an opponent. This means it is open to anyone to participate, no matter their size, age or athletic abilities. It is a martial art that is for everyone. So if you are considering taking it up, the time for procrastination is over. Find a gym near your or try an online program and get rolling!